“Only love can bring unity and remove the separation between all living beings. Only love purifies the body and mind.”—Swami Kripalu
When she was growing up, Lauren-Victoria (Tori) Hellrung’s family raised guide dogs in their home, so Tori has always been sensitive to the needs of people with visual impairments. After completing her yoga teacher training at Kripalu in 2009, Tori went home to Montreal and immediately started a class for legally blind adults at the MAB–Mackay Rehabilitation Centre (at the MAB site, formerly known as the Montreal Association for the Blind).
“When I started, I didn’t realize the impact this program would have on their lives,” Tori says. “As I began to learn about the community, it became clear that beyond the gym and aquafitness, my students had no other physical outlets, since most sports are not accessible to blind people. They had no other way of exploring their bodies’ potential, and none as mindful as yoga. I have not heard of a program other than my own in the Montreal area that provides this kind of opportunity for students to be in their bodies in a safe, spiritual, and physical way.”
Forget about enjoying the holidays: More and more, the majority of us just want to make it through. Which is why a meditation practice—proven to counter stress, beat depression and illness, keep energy levels up, and help encourage better sleep—can come in especially handy this time of year. The best part: You don’t need to invest a lot of time or commitment (and, unlike most everything else this season, it’s totally free). Angela Wilson, MA, Manager of Evidence-Based Yoga Curriculum for Kripalu’s Institute for Extraordinary Living, offers the following tips for practicing on-the-go mindfulness: no quiet room, dimmed lights, or mat required.
The fields of Positive Psychology, mind-body medicine, yoga, and the spiritual disciplines offer wisdom—culled from research and centuries of experience—that can sustain our unique over-40 needs. Here are five of these wisdom teachings.
1. Remember that change is possible at any time. Not only is our brain plastic (able to be “remapped” toward greater health, calm, memory, and reduction of pain) but also our thoughts and feelings can be reshaped on a daily basis. We can begin to experience positive transformation within days—a transformation that can be sustained over a lifetime.
Ashley Winseck, guest blogger
Doing yoga at home is considered a vital part of deepening your personal practice. While it may be intimidating to attempt a practice without the guidance of an instructor and a weekly class, rest assured that you don’t need to be a super yogi to create a home yoga practice.
Create a habit.
Just like taking care of your car or brushing your teeth, your yoga practice should (and will!) become a habit and a standard part of your daily routine. Kripalu Yoga teacher Evelyn Gonzalez leads workshops at Kriplau designed to help people determine how to start practicing yoga at home. Using her personal experiences to guide others, she says, “If I go for months without a regular yoga routine I can feel my body start to fall a part.” The goal is to get to the point at which no doing yoga would be like not brushing your teeth, not getting your car’s oil changed.
How meditation can help you be a better friend.
Meditation has long been celebrated for all it can do for us, among the benefits: lower blood pressure, reduce stress, help us sleep, and even possibly help us lose weight. But a recent study also found that meditation might help us be better friends and partners. Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta found that many participants who had practiced eight weeks of meditation showed significant improvement in their ability to identify the emotions of people in photos based on their expressions. That is, they were more in tune with the feelings of others.
Do you suffer from anxiety, poor digestion, or lack of focus? When life’s demands overwhelm us, Angela Wilson, Manager of Evidence-Based Yoga Curriculum for Kripalu’s Institute for Extraordinary Living, explains in her R&R retreat lecture Cultivating Inner Strength, our nervous system gets out of balance. Through the practices of yoga meditation, and mindfulness, however, we can build resilience in order to be fully aware of all our experiences.
As Angela explains, there are two main branches of the nervous system. There’s the sympathetic nervous system, which activates the fight-or-flight response in reaction to stressful situations. It’s a hot, reactive state, which increases heart rate and primes the body for action. The other branch is the parasympathetic nervous system, which is activated when the body is relaxed. The parasympathetic supports a cooling, restful and state. It soothes the system, aids in digestion, and can be fostered through yoga practice.
That girl isn’t pretty enough to be that annoying.
WHAT? WHAT did you just think? Who ARE you?
Oh, right. I’m me. Hi. My name is Valerie and I have a judgmental brain feed that reads like a cross between Mean Girls,The Hangover, and Heathers. It’s stunning to me. But there it is. Judge, judge, judge, all the livelong day.
Swami Kripalu once said, “Every time you judge yourself you break your own heart.” I’m pretty sure that judging others also breaks our heart. That’s partly because we bear the brunt of the poison that burbles up to form a negative judgment, and partly because we’re all energetically connected. I’m convinced that, on some level,we feel each other’s psychic barbs, especially if we intentionally throw them. They’re also the seeds of violence and war.
Harsh, constant judging creates barriers—which at times can actually be helpful. When judgments protect us from maniacs who cause harm, that’s good (yep, I’m judging!). But we also use judgments to protect our hearts from other scary things, like, you know, love. If I’m judging you, then I don’t have to take you in. I don’t have to need you. I don’t have to be vulnerable to you. I’m tough—I’ve got my barbed wire thoughts and they’re protecting me! (Or not.)